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The Green Thief at Hodders Combe

Travel to Holford and follow the road through to a small car park next to a triangular sward of grass. This is the foot of Hodders Combe, the story reveals up this valley which is approximately south from here in to the Quantocks.

The trail is along the valley but not the road which leads to Alfoxton Park.

It should take about 45 mins to walk and read at an amble with children, and the story is designed to read out loud to all in your group.


Christopher Jelley
Chapter one


Many years ago, and well before living memory, a curious man came calling at the local Inn with a proposition for the good people of Holford. Who were they to refuse such an offer and they accepted with good cheer but little did they know how simple things escalate, and what payment he would ask for his services.

There are not many rules when it comes to my storywalks, but the first is not to navigate away from this page, so keep your fingers off the back button, and try not to use other apps.

The walk utilises the GPS in your device and is designed to work without network connection. So if you get 'no data connection' or similar then don't worry, just close that dialogue and carry on.

The coding script required to enable this is quite taxing even for smart - smart phones, but if you are reading this then you should be good to go. (Fingers crossed)

Lastly this story starts here and continues up the combe where it ends, nominate a narrator, or take it in turns, the locked bar below is the first chapter, when you arrive at Holford, go to the bowling green (through the village, easy to find with big woodland car park)

Walk onto the grass sward and the chapter will open with image and text.

Enjoy, and let me know how you get on.

Christopher Jelley
Chapter two

map 02

Chapter three

map 01

Chapter four

Chapter 1

It was a dark night with a blistering wind and seeing as the cost of fuel has always been high, it was common for locals to gather here. Late into the evening, the door opened but a crack and in stepped a tall skinny man who brought the ice of the night right into the heart of the hall.

'Good people of Holford I have a little proposition for you.' Everyone was quiet, listening to the stranger.

'Would you like a warm winter?'

'Yes' came the reply.

'Would you like the snow and frost to stay away?'

'Yes' they said a little louder.

'Would you like a calm and balmy winter without the need even for a hearth?'

'Yes' they all cried and raised their tankards to the rafters.

'Well then, I can give you this but I will want a little payment in return.' There was a long pause, and he then continued. 'All I ask is a single Goose to be brought up the Combe to where the beck splits in two. Leave her there on the 21st December, the winter solstice and your winter shall be stately.'

This sounded good to the villagers, but the thin man had not finished speaking.

'But if you do not leave me a single Goose, then on the 1st May I will expect six in the same manner.' And then he was gone through the crack in the door into the cold night.
Chapter five

Chapter 2

Well the winter was warm all about Holford and the Combe but when the 21st December came, the good folk of Holford let it pass without payment thinking nothing of the strange man's bargain.

Then the 1st May rolled in and the villagers didn't take the six Geese up the combe but instead revelled at the mild winter and their good fortune.

Well it was a fine long summer and crops ripened perfectly by the warmth of the sun, the barns were full for tything and all was golden in Holford or so it seemed. But then one night in early autumn just before the first frosts usually come, a thin man entered the Inn once again.

As he stepped across the threshold the air became icy, even the fire dipped low.

'Good people of Holford' said the Ice Man, a half smile on his lips.

'Last year I asked for a single Goose in exchange for a warm winter, but no Goose has been forthcoming. So I ask you good people of Holford, would you care for another warm winter?'

Yes came the response but a little less energetic than the previous years.

'Well, since you were so poor at paying last year, my fee has increased, on the winter solstice, the 21st December, bring me a single Ox. That is all I ask, but if no Ox is forthcoming on this date then I shall expect six on May Day, is that understood?'

There were nods about the room and then the Ice Man left.

Well that winter was warmer than the last and not a flake of snow fell on the combe or village but less could be said for the neighbouring villages of Nether Stowey and Kilve for their winters were harsh.

As the 21st December came and the good people of Holford squabbled on who was to send the Ox, no one volunteered, so the solstice came and went and payment was not made.
Chapter six

Chapter 3

The villagers of Holford saw another good winter which was in stark contrast to Stowey and Kilve who's ice and snow was deeper than ever. For out in the night the Ice Man danced across tiles and barn thatch, across yard and quarter, with cold drills of ice shooting from his elbows into the soft earth. He danced day and night, all about but not in Holford, nor Hodders combe, the Ice Man was having a ball.

Then the 1st May came and six Ox were requested in pay, but still the villagers were not forthcoming.

Up the combe Jack The Ice Man was furious, he had not been paid for his kindness in leaving the village warm year upon year in the winter. Now spring was to be upon them with the warm sun on the heads of those good people of Holford. So out of anger he stole the wild fire from the sun itself, and without this it would barely break through cloud all summer long.

But that was not enough for Jack the Ice Man, he wanted the wild fire to stay hidden for ever, so he chopped it up into tiny little pieces and fed it to a badger piece by piece. He laughed at his cunning, knowing no one would ever find it now, and that all the people of Somerset would have a cold summer as well as winter.

He then skinned the badger and made a stole for himself to wear as he danced ice across the moors. But this stole, even after the chopping, and skinning, burned on his neck, and sent bright hot light all about. So he locked it in an iron casket and then burried it in a badgers set up Hodders combe, and kept the key tied to his waist at all times.

Well without the spring wild fire the sun did not bring on the summer, the crops did not grow, the fruit did not ripen, the washing could not dry. Without the spring wild fire there was no summer at all, and Jack Frost frolicked in glee.
Chapter seven

Chapter 4

Well that was a cold, hard and wet summer, the grain began to rot and the damp pervaded all. Everything turned brown, it was as if the the colour green had been stolen away forever.

Then Winter arrived and so Jack Frost went to the Inn once more, half a smile on his dry lips, and ice dripping from his elbows. The hearth fire went out immediately, the air went cold, and Jack the Green Thief addressed the good people of Holford.

'I asked for a single Goose but none was forthcoming, then I asked for a single Ox, but still you did not pay, and you had warm winters at my behest.' No one moved in the hall, but tankards of cider began to chill, and frost began to form on the inside of the window pains.

'So good people of Holford, I have a final proposition, I shall leave your combe clear of ice and snow once more, but my fee, due on the winter solstice, is a child from your village.'

All was deathly silent in the room, breath hung in the air as the Green Thief continued.

'And if no child is forthcoming on 21st December then I shall expect six on May Day' and with that he was gone, leaving frozen tankards and frosted beards amidst fear and despair.

And again the winter was mild, Jack Frost kept his half of the bargain but what he had not said, was that he would give Kilve and Nether Stowey Holford's share of the winter!

So the neighbouring villages suffered the more as Jack Frost danced upon tiles and heather, on hilltop and riverbed, but not in Holford nor in Hodders combe. The neighbouring people began to take refuge in Holford, and the good people could not turn their half starved frozen neighbours away.
Chapter eight

Chapter 5

Then the winter solstice passed once again without payment, for how could the village choose a child from their ranks, but Jack Frost waited eager for his six children now due on May Day.

'What if we pay?' Said one 'next year it will be double, you mark my words.'

'Did we ask for his service? yet now we are to pay with our own blood, surely there is another way.'

But there seemed no other action until one boy, a trapper, was in the combe late one night and saw strange lights where none should be.

He crouched behind a tree and saw Jack Frost pull-out the iron casket from the badgers set close to the fork of the streams. Taking a key from his belt he opened it and the light spilled from the casket across the valley, and the boy could feel the good heat of the wild fire even though he was some distance away.

The Ice Man then threw the badgers stole about his neck and danced in a mad crazy manner, rubbing his hands in glee and clicking heels and elbows, shooting ice and snow all about. Jack Frost then threw the stole back into the casket, locked it sharp and tied the key about his belt once more. Pushing the casket back into the badgers set, he then danced off into the night to continue his mischief.

But the boy had seen all he needed to see and reported back to the village immediately, at last a plan was hatched and all the three villages were to play their part.
Chapter nine

Chapter 6

The 1st May came quick, but the villagers were prepared, for in the pre dawn morning gloom, before the sun came up, every man, woman, and child carried wood up the valley to the fork in the stream bed just here.

From this a throne was built like a birds nest, for the Ice Man to perch on when he arrived. When dawn came, so did Jack Frost swooping down on his icy coat tails marvelling at the turn out for his payment day.

'Oh, what a gift' he said and landed right on top of the throne. 'Why you shouldn't have, and look at all the work you good people have done for me.' Then his tone turned more dark 'now which children are mine?'

So busy was he, twitching in excitement he did not see the snares close about his legs and wrists, the wire snagging tight on the Green Thief's skin. 'What is this, jewellery?' But his tone soon changed when the snares bit tight and he could not shake them free. The smug, complacent charm slid away to reveal the wild ferocity of a cornered animal. The more he fought, the tighter the snares bit until he lay still on top of the wood stick throne.

Up stepped the trapper boy who took the key from Jack Frosts belt, whilst others pulled the iron casket from the badgers set.

The casket was opened and the valley sang in the brilliant morning light, all were bathed in the warmth and glory of the wild fire from within. The heat was so strong it drew all the villagers close, they had missed it for so long, but the stole seemed to be getting brighter, the light hotter as it mixed with the May Day dawn. Hotter and hotter, until it melted the iron casket itself, the wild fire oozing like boiling jam, searching out the dry timber of the throne itself, seeding a blaze that could not be quenched, and on top sat Jack Frost snared with wire, aghast at his coming fate.

The flames rose higher and higher, crackling and fizzing, and though shards of ice drilled from Jack Frosts frantic elbows, they were no match for the wild fire he had stolen. Up they rose, engulfing The Green Thief and then onwards, igniting the skies, leaping right into the spring sun where they belonged.

When the pyre receded later that day, all that was left of the Ice Man was dust.
Chapter ten

Chapter 7

A good summer was had and the year turned its regular cycle as everything was back to normal once more. Jack Frost did not darken their Inn door again with fees for his favours, but deep in the combe they noticed a new sapling begin to grow on the spot of the Pyre. Over time it spread upward as is the norm but seemed to twist in pain away from the daylight also, unlike all the other trees in the valley. Some say this is Jack Frost himself pinned into the earth by the wild fire, others that the ground was spoiled by the heat and ice of that morning.

What ever the truth, the tree seems to twist away from the sunshine which feeds it, and why would that be so?

Now hidden in the roots of this tree is a journal in a box, please sign, leave a comment or even a drawing.

This is an official Geocache and is hidden here with kind permission from Quantock Hills AONB, so please hide/replace as you have found it, out of sight from prying eyes but still easily accessible for storywalkers.

Now the good people of Holford have a game, called 'What Time is it Jack Frost?' would you like to play?

The game is simple, one person should play Jack and face the stunted tree, the others play the village children. The idea is to touch the twisted tree without Jack seeing you move, or being able to catch you.

The children ask - What time is it Jack Frost?
And Jack replies - Why its Spring time, and the children advance quietly, hoping Jack won't turn and see them move.

Then the children ask Jack again - What time is it Jack Frost?
And Jack will reply - Why its Summer time, and again the children advance quietly, hoping Jack won't turn and catch them, or see them move.

This can go on for a little while oscillating back and forth across the warmer seasons until Jack Frost replies

Ice time, or Winter time.

At which point Jack turns from the tree to snatch at the children, if he catches any then they are out, but if a child gets to the tree without being caught, then Jack has lost.

So time to ask the Green Thief what time is it?

Many thanks for walking this tale trail

Let me know how you got on


Kind regards

Chris Jelley

More walks at www.storywalks.info
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